Stray cat group turns back grant

Group decided against seeking tax-exempt status

TYRONE — Borough Council this week rescinded a $1,500 grant it awarded last month to a group that is trapping, spaying, neutering, testing, treating and trying to find homes for stray cats — at the group’s request.

“We feel that the barriers that will be placed on us by accepting said funds will ultimately hinder the group’s mission,” stated a letter to council from the Tyrone Community Cat Advocates.

Council had encouraged the group to obtain formal tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service and asked it to cooperate with a local organization that it didn’t want to work with, said Cat Advocates member Pat Griffith.

Obtaining a tax exemption would have taken time away from the group’s efforts and cost $600 — unnecessarily, because the group’s finances are well-organized and would have been open to inspection, Griffith said.

Moreover, “We don’t want to be micromanaged,” Griffith said.

The group also was made uncomfortable by criticism following the last council meeting from people concerned that the grant would mean less money for borough operations and youth sports, Griffith said.

The group is grateful for the offer and really could have used the money, Griffith said.

“(But) would it be worth the hassle?” she asked rhetorically. “We decided it wouldn’t be.”

During council’s February meeting, Mayor Bill Latch­ford expressed concerns about the group’s lack of formal organization and lack of tax-exempt status and afterward warned members that they could be held accountable for “every penny.”

“I don’t know if that planted a seed,” leading to the decision to turn back the grant, Latchford said. “Maybe that came across as a little more than what they wanted to deal with.”

The group is providing a “great service,” but the grant represented taxpayer funds, and it’s necessary to track them, he said.

Moreover, the critical comments from residents that offended the group were “understandable,” Latchford said.

In lieu of the grant, the group is planning a fund­raiser, Griffith said. It previously cleared $833 with a sandwich sale. The group also asks for donations from families that adopt.

There is currently $510 in the group’s account, she said.

The group is holding “clinics” every two weeks that cost an average of $150, Griffith said.

Members set traps in a problem area, take the cats they catch to a vet, treat them for fleas, test and treat them for worms and test them for feline leukemia and feline HIV, according to Griffith.

Some cats that test positive for those diseases need to be euthanized — although only one or two have been euthanized since the work began in November, according Cat Advocates member Tammy Wills.

The other cats are spayed or neutered, Griffith said.

The group tries to find the owners of the cats they believe had been previously domesticated, using the group’s website and Face­book, Wills said.

They try to find adoptive families for the remaining friendly ones, she said.

The group releases the rest into the neighborhoods where they lived before, she said.

The group is trying to keep that number as low as possible, Wills said.

Of 43 cats trapped so far, nine have been adopted and seven are in foster care, Wills said. Several others are being held in hopes they’ll be adopted, she said.

The Central Pennsylvania Humane Society isn’t accepting cats and farmers don’t want them, she said.

“There are more cats in Tyrone than anybody ever imagined,” she said. “We can’t do it overnight.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.